Adam Jones Is Richer

As I wrote about this morning, the Baltimore Orioles and Adam Jones are close to announcing a contract extension that will make the center fielder the highest paid player in team history. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal will be worth $85 million over six years.

The deal covers his final year of arbitration eligibility and then the first five years of his free agency eligibility. The terms are somewhere between what I would’ve been comfortable offering Jones ($78 million over six years) and some of the more ambitious projections that compared Jones to Matt Kemp.

If we break down the contract to assume that Jones will get paid $10 million for his final arbitration year, and then $15 million in the subsequent seasons, we see that the Orioles judge Jones to be a three wins above replacement player, which is likely a conservative judgment of his true talent. Considering his last two seasons and the start of this year, he’s likely closer to a four WAR player. If you rate his defense more highly than UZR does, then it’s a very good team deal.

However, that’s what should happen when a team decides to extend a player at this point of a season that’s shaping up to be a career year. The risk for the Orioles is that his first quarter of 2012 isn’t as indicative of his true talent as the previous two seasons when Jones hovered below a total fWAR of three. The risk for Jones is that he’s become Matt Kemp and is now turning down what would’ve been a larger pay day ahead of the 2014 season.

It’s probably worth noting that the deal sets up something of a template for the center fielders expected to hit the free agent market this off season in Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino.

Comments (3)

  1. CF is a young man’s game. Extending one with the expectation he’ll provide the same defensive value as he gets older seems reckless to me (see Vernon Wells).

    • I actually agree with you.

      • I agree with this as well. It is a risky proposition. However, I believe that when your team plays in the American League East there needs to be a willingness to take a certain amount of risks which you would not take in another division. The barrier of entry to the playoffs is higher because the talent level is better. Your team needs a higher percentage of stars and first division starters on it to contend and is less able to withstand really awful performances from players on the roster.

        Betting that Adam Jones is likely to be a three to four win player for at least the first three years of this contract strikes me as a reasonable risk to take. His true talent likely lies somewhere between his 2010/2011 numbers and the way he has started out in 2012. When he gets moved to a corner down the road (and he is going to be moved eventually) his value will be diminished, but the hope has to be that he contributes enough between now and then to justify probably $5M-$20M (1-4 WAR) in sunk costs over the final two to three years of the contract.

        The other consideration is “When is the next great Orioles team likely to manifest itself?” Does the organization believe that their team is for real this year? Do they think that, at the very least, it is a legitimate stepping stone towards a contending team within the next 2-3 seasons? If either of those things are the case then this deal makes sense to me because Jones is likely to be a meaningful contributor (a first division starter at the very least or possibly even a star-level player in his better seasons), but if the team doesn’t think it can contend until Jones is about to be moved to a corner then it doesn’t look so good.

        He is turning just 27 in August though so it’s entirely possible that he might stick in center for six more years. That’s not a foregone conclusion even if the fact that he will move eventually certainly is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *